The second stop in my Australian vacation took me to Perth – the most remote populated city in the world on the western edge of Australia. That’s probably why few Americans have made it out to this part of the world.
But Perth is on the rise, with a state tourism promotion in full speed and its dining scene gaining international attention. (The New York Times named Perth one of the top 10 places to visit in 2014.) One of the places helping create the foodie buzz is Print Hall, a dining complex built in an old newspaper house behind The Western Australian newspaper.
Print Hall is made up of a large (and quite popular) bar on the ground level, a casual eatery downstairs and a rooftop terrace. The main dining room is on the same level of the bar, and is actually quite small in comparison.
Sticker Shock Drinks
Despite the bar filled with after-work types, most people were drinking beer. And I wasn’t surprised when I checked out the specialty cocktail menu, which listed drinks that ranged between AUS$18–25 (or $16.70 to $23). I resorted to an old standby – a vodka martini with olives – thinking it wouldn’t be as expensive as the specialty cocktails, but I was wrong when I was charged AUS$25 ($23).
BTW, a local mentioned that Perth is considered one of the most expensive places to live in the world. I totally agree after drinking that $25 martini.
When I settled into the dining room, the service was high-end and expert, and ironically almost everyone spoke with an accent from a country other than Australia. Still, the service was comparable to dining at a three-Michelin star restaurant.
The menu provides two options:
- A four-course meal for AUS$110 (or $102), choosing from the menu in the sections of starter, first, second, and dessert.
- An eight-course degustation menu for AUS$150 (or $140) (In Australian, they prefer to call chef’s tasting menus “degustation menus.”)
I decided to go with the four courses, but even before that started I chose to order a half-dozen raw oysters from Australia and Tasmania. They were all fresh and briny, but my favorite was one from the Albany region in southwestern Australia. It was plump with such a creamy texture it was like pure gold.
The meal from the kitchen of Chef Shane Watson was a special one, with all the plates beautifully presented with a creativity that has garnered Print Hall the recognition as a leader of the modern Australian movement. My ceviche of Hiramasa kingfish combined tomatillo with pomme soufflé, or deep-fried potato puffs that was the chef’s hint of fish tacos. And a veal pastrami was an amazingly smoked meat slices on a dramatic black plate, perked with the wasabi sauce and pickled onions.
My main of pan-fried barramundi (one of the most popular fish in Australia) was perfectly cooked and served with mussels and squids, but I didn’t get the side dish of iceberg lettuce in a simple vinaigrette. The tart flavor of the salad seemed to overcome the delicateness of the fish when I ate between the two plates.
Dessert of spiced mead baba (a type of cake) was made more brioche-like and again looked enticing, although I hardly got any liquor flavor in the baba and the passion fruit ice cream was very tart.
The Last Bite
Despite the high prices for alcohol at Print Hall’s bar, the dining room is a destination if you’re celebrating a special occasion. For me – being a foodie traveler – I’m willing to go far and pay the price for a meal, and the headline for Print Hall and Chef Watson is that the food matches the price in quality and satisfaction.
Rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
Print Hall Bar and Dining Room, Brookfield Place, 125 St. Georges Terrace, Perth, WA, Australia. PH: +61(8)6282-0000. Open weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to midnight (dining room from 6 p.m.); Saturday from 4 p.m., closed Sunday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. printhall.com.au
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